The Pension Protection Fund's member payments officer won administrator of the year at PP's inaugural Rising Star Awards. He tells Kim Kaveh about his successes.
What does winning the award mean to you?
The win is highly motivational. Achieving recognition for your hard work gives you confidence to voice your ideas. I think it also gives you respect among your industry peers. It is something to be proud of.
What's been the biggest achievement in your career?
The biggest achievement was playing a role in the insourcing of the Financial Assistance Scheme, which we did in 2018. The scheme had approximately 150,000 members, including 60,000 on active payroll.
I began working half of my days on the insourcing plan from the middle of 2017 and then moved to work on this full time from early 2018. I was heading up the payroll strand and was responsible for all stages from the planning and testing to the parallel pay runs and the live in-house payroll. This period involved a huge amount of communication across the business to ensure no stone was left unturned. I am really proud to say the insourcing was a success.
What challenges have you faced, and how have you dealt with them?
The testing phase of any insourcing project is always going to be challenging, and this was no different. Although the scheme was transferring from one pension firm to another, the processes and the ways of working are very different. This means we firstly needed to identify how the previous firm dealt with the administration of the scheme; this then enabled us to either match it or improve it on our own system. In some cases, new procedures needed to be written and new processes needed to be built. This involved a lot of collaboration with our system provider in terms of building and testing.
What are the important lessons you have learned in your pensions career so far?
I think it is to always plan for the unexpected, and be proactive instead of reactive, to ensure deadlines are always met and additional stress/workload is not put on yourself and colleagues. When problems occur, there is always a short amount of time to deal with these issues so a good plan to cover all bases can help in minimising any delay.
What is your top tip for someone looking to progress or start a career in pensions?
Always look for a more efficient way of doing things. Here at the Pension Protection Fund, our membership is growing, so the workload is ever increasing; trying to keep on top of this is key.
Always pay close attention to what you are being trained on, and at the same time think of how improvements can be made that will benefit the team/organisation/member. And don't be afraid to put your suggestions forward for discussion - you should always have confidence to voice your ideas even if you are at the early stage of your career. I suppose that's what makes a rising star - someone who has great suggestions even if they are not the most experienced member of the team.
What else can the industry do to get better at supporting and encouraging the rising stars of pensions?
Continuous learning and development opportunities to help people to be the best they can be, grow their confidence and help them to uncover hidden talents.
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